Meet Bahi JD, Austrian GIF Animator Turned Japanese Pro Animator

How does a 21-year-old kid living in Vienna, Austria become a key animator on a Japanese anime series directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo)? That’s the unlikely tale of Bahi JD, one of the fast-rising stars of the animation world.

Bahi first started receiving attention a few years ago as an eighteen-year-old when he created an epic animated GIF called Shithead Action. The piece (formatted as a YouTube video above) displayed exceptional command of drawing and layout, and became a calling card for the young artist.

Since then, he has gone on to animate on the Konami game Skullgirls, various Japanese animated music videos, and most recently on Watanabe’s new series Kids on the Slope. His story is documented in this fascinating interview on AniPages.

The thing that struck me most while reading the interview was how Bahi JD’s development as an artist and subsequent career in the field are inseperable from the Internet: he was initially inspired by the “sakuga” anime style that he discovered on-line; he created critical networking links by participating in on-line forums and interacting with other aspiring artists and Japanese industry pros; he became known by posting his work online; and today he telecommutes to Tokyo-based animation studios through an Internet connection from his home in Austria.

The remarkable part of the story isn’t that Bahi found a job in the animation industry, but that he found a job in a highly competitive sector of the industry that’s 5,000 miles away from his home. As the animation community grows online and animation software becomes as accessible as the Internet itself, Bahi JD’s path to the industry will be one that we may see repeated ever more frequently in the coming years.

(Thanks, Tim Drage)

  • Stav Levi (croovman)

    I remember this GIF from when it was posted on deviantART years ago I think. It blew my mind then and it blows my mind now.
    So awesome it led him to where it did.
    Friggin’ awesome.

  • Kelly Tindall

    Make good stuff, and make sure the right people see it. Worked for this fellow!

  • Erik Butter

    Looks like it is made in flipnote studio on a Nintendo DS…

    • Anila73

      Yup. Especially with that shading.

  • Ara

    I’m so happy you devoted a post to this guy! That youtube video you posted was the first piece of work I ever saw from him, and to think that within two years he would be a key animator in Japan! It’s astounding, and I’m so happy he’s doing well. Super young, super talented, and hopefully he’ll be super successful. I can only wish him lots of luck (and that even more young animators will be able to travel this path).

    Also, people need to check out this guys tumblr, a lot of amazing stuff there!

  • Aaron B.

    Nice interview. It’s also great to see that he has some perspective about his fast rise as well:

    “[W]hen I finished my first shot, it was too [..] loose and too much myself and off-model. I did it on purpose, to be honest, because I wanted the shots to stand out, but I now realize that this kind of behavior can sometimes be very selfish and very risky for a project. The whole project could take a hit because of this kind off stuff. [..] But that didn’t stop me from putting my creative energy into the shots.”

  • Another Studio Animator

    So it begins… I hope he still manages to produce independent work.

    At 21 with that talent and energy, I can’t wait to see what he does on his own.

  • Wesley Louis

    This guy is nothing short of amazing. I can’t believe how good he is. Makes me excited that there’s still a lot for me to learn. Thanks for the post.

  • nick

    wow, coincidentally I just stumbled on this guys tumblr a few days ago. Had no idea his story was so unique. I just thought he was another professional japanese animator. While I was watching the clip I noticed the sketchy looking smears he does after having seen his tumblr page and thought I was just recognising a trend in anime. Turns out it’s his style.

  • Tim Drage

    Glad to bring this to your attention :)

    He makes me feel like a SERIOUS underachiever animation-wise when I think back over how little animating I’ve done in the time since I was also posting in that same gif animation thread where he got started <(-__-;)

  • Sam Filstrup

    Good for him, that’s one nice piece of animation.

  • Anila73

    They didn’t even mention Flipnote Studio but it’s obvious that that’s where it was created.

    • bombboy

      It’s not, it’s made on a PC program whose name I don’t remember. Though it has the same capabilities as Flipnote! Shithead action is from before the times of flipnote